I am continuing to enjoy Christmas stories as I prepare for the Christmas Season. I am participating in 20 Books for Christmas, as well as the Ho-Ho-Ho Readathon, so was able to read or listen to several this week. A couple of these were not really Christmas, but more winter themed, but they were already on my list. Some are also backlist books, so I am actually ticking off 3 lists with one book. In the #20BooksForWinter these are #16, #17, and #18. One was not on that list.

Christmas in Vermont by Anita Hughes 

Published October 15th 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin

4.5 Stars:

Christmas in Vermont is a story of second chances, soulmates, and serendipity. Emma has once again broken up with her boyfriend just before Christmas, not making it to the one year mark. She tried to return his Christmas gift, an an bracelet with an emerald clasp, but he won’t take it back. She decides to pawn it and donate the money to charity. At the pawn shop, she recognizes a watch, that she gave her first and only love, Fletcher, in the counter. On impulse she asks to see it and there is the inscription she had put on it. She buys it, and shares that story with her best friend, Bronwyn. Bronwyn does some digging and finds out that Fletcher has returned to the US from London and is vacationing in Vermont at a small inn. She books a week for Emma, insisting it is synchronicity. She is sure that Fletcher is the reason that Emma has not found the man she wants to spend her life with. Emma finally agrees and heads to Vermont. Will they be able to rekindle their love for one another?

This is a wonderful, Christmas romance. Emma is a woman who wants to find love, but has never had a relationship last more than a year. Bronwyn is her best friend, a happily married mother of two, and her biggest cheerleader. She knows that Emma has never stopped loving Fletcher and will do whatever she can to bring them together. Fletcher’s daughter, Lola, steals the book for me. She is a precocious, talented young lady, who is not very happy with her father’s latest woman. She feels left out and that their relationship with him is being destroyed. She quickly becomes attached to Emma, as she practises with her for the talent show. When she finds out that they knew each other years ago, she begins to confide in her and try to get them together. This was a sweet story, with Christmas festivities, a bit of Christmas magic, friendship, family, selfishness, caring and romance. It might have been a little predictable, but this is one I very much enjoyed and recommend.

Mistle Text: ‘Twas the Text Before Christmas … (An Accidentally in Love Story #5) by Whitney Dineen & Melanie Summers 

Published September 19th 2021 by ‎ 33 Partners & Indigo Group

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thanks to Toni over at Reading Tonic for posting about this book. It sounded like so much fun and I couldn’t resist adding it to my Christmas reads.

Mistle Text is the 5th book in the Accidentally in Love series, but it is a standalone story. I really enjoyed this book. Holly Snow is raising her precocious four year old niece after the death of her parents three years earlier. She is working as many odd jobs as she can get to support them, as well as pay her portion of the tuition for the private school Faith is attending on partial scholarship. When Maggie, her best friend, tells her about a job as a personal shopper for her Scrooge of a boss, Archibald Harrington, she jumps at the opportunity. Archie has no intention of celebrating Christmas or meeting a woman, he just wants to work hard to prove to his uncle that he should be running the company when he retires. When his friend and security boss at the firm tells him that his uncle is worried about leaving the business to a single, unattached man, he comes up with a plan. He asks Holly if she will pretend to be his girlfriend and possible fiancée for the Christmas holidays. Holly agrees, as long as Faith is also able to attend, which actually makes Archie happy. Will this fake relationship become a real one?

Of course this is a Christmas rom-com, so you know how it will end up, but the story to get there is delightful. I loved Faith’s role in this story. She is very precocious, but also has no filter, is astute and has a good moral compass. She easily worms her way into Archie’s affections and helps to bring him and Holly together. Her comments and antics made me smile constantly. Archie really wasn’t that hard of a nut to crack. He just needed a reason to let down his guard and to meet the right person. There is some shopping, Christmas festivities, a visit to a curmudgeon who thaws under Faith’s honesty and a best friend who wants the best for Holly and Faith. A fun, sweet, clean story that I very much enjoyed. A Christmas romance that I am glad I picked up and definitely recommend. Thanks Toni at Reading Tonic, for bringing this book to my attention.

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan 

Published October 30th 2018 by Macmillan

3.5 Stars:

The Christmas Lights is a dual timeline story set in present day, with the stories of Instagram influencers Bo and Zac and their photographer/manager Lenny, as well as in 1936 with Signy, a 14 year old daughter of a farming family in Norway. Bo and Zac are in Norway to promote a new clothing line and are staying in the home of Signy and her grandson Anders. There are a lot of secrets in this book, Signy’s, Anders’ and Bo’s, that come out as the story progresses. Bo and Zac never have a ‘real’ moment to themselves, everything is staged. Their whole life is out there for everyone to see, but that is to be expected based on the life they have chosen. Lenny is always there, he was a part of their lives that often made Bo feel uncomfortable and I thought was a bit creepy at times. He was also like an invisible part of their lives that could often be forgotten. Bo is getting tired of the whole thing and realizes that there is more to life than this and she is tired of feeling like a prop and always being on stage. Anders seems to understand her better than Zac does, but what is he hiding? There is also a stalker storyline, that had Bo frightened and not sure which way to go. Could Bo have a life in Norway with Anders? Who and where is the stalker?

This was a coming of age story for Signy, as well as a self-actualization story for Bo. Both of these women had secrets and were just trying to live and be happy. Signy became like a therapist for Bo, listening to her and giving her wise words to consider. I wasn’t sure what to think of Bo’s and Zac’s relationship. It seemed staged for the camera, yet as real as either of them could feel towards someone else in their situation. I liked the backstory of Signy’s life and how the crevasses caused tragedy in the past. This was an extremely atmospheric story, with the cold, isolation and darkness. It was a Christmas themed romance with added mystery and suspense. I am not really into social media, so the insights into the world of Instagram influencers and the price of all that fame, with its trolls and cruel comments was interesting. I still don’t understand why people would want to put their life on display that way. It was a beautiful setting with cliffs, waterfalls, and northern lights, that reminded me of my daughter’s time living in the far north. Overall this is a romantic suspense story with a mystery, secrets and how social media can affect someone’s life, all set at Christmas. Not really a festive Christmas story, but enjoyable all the same.

An Orphan in the Snow by Molly Green

Published November 30th 2017 by Avon

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Although I read this with my Christmas reads, this is not a Christmas story. An Orphan in the Snow is an Historical Fiction book, set during WW2. The story tells of life at Liverpool’s Dr Barnado’s Home. These homes were originally opened to give orphans and street children a place to live safely, but during the war they also housed evacuees. The expression of “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” came to mind as I read this book. It is not as bad as some of the orphan train books, but there is harsh treatment in this story that is rectified by the end. This book centers on June Lavender, who takes a job as the assistant to the matron after the death of her sister. She can no longer live with her father, who was responsible for her death. June is kind hearted and wants to make sure all the children have the best care and treatment. She is up against the hard hearted matron, who has rules in place that she believes are in the best interest of raising strong, non-pampered children, but in truth are punishing them. One child in particular, Lizzie, tugs at June’s heart. She is only four and doesn’t speak. She has been banished to the nursery and is not even allowed out to eat meals. She is “guarded” by a mean and unhappy young woman, who is making life even more miserable for Lizzie. June defies matron by taking Lizzie outside to play in the snow and finally sees a smile and hears some words. Can June turn this home around and bring kindness and light into the lives of the children?

This was an uplifting story about the power of love, kindness and perseverance. June is a wonderful character, who refuses to cower under the matron. She is able to get many of the staff on her side to support her and report incidence to the managers that come to visit, after their pleas fall on deaf ears when they talk to matron. As we learn about June’s past, I quickly understood why she was so adamant that the children be well treated. The children are so sweet. Some are scared and try to hide from the world, some are extremely helpful with the younger children, and some are just kids trying to survive under terrible circumstances. There is also a storyline about June and a pilot she met at a local dance. It didn’t overpower the story, but added another realistic element to the book. I loved how this story ended with an uplifting and hopeful conclusion. It touched on several themes including bombings, discrimination, child rearing, family issues, war and it’s losses and injuries, and some romance. This was a well-written story that pulled me in from the beginning and kept me interested throughout.